Church officially seeks closure

The Valley Chronicle, California/December 4, 2009

The Church of Scientology is officially seeking the closure of Gilman Springs Road between Highway 79 and Soboba Road.

Golden Era Productions, the Scientology movie production studio, has asked Riverside County to remove the road from its circulation plan as the first step in vacating the road.

Verne Lauritzen, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone's chief of staff, said it is not likely Stone will support the application unless Scientology officials can present him with a plan to provide an alternative to the road that will carry more traffic and be safer than the existing road.

And that alternate route must be provided without taxpayer money, Lauritzen said.

The Scientologists announced the move in a news release issued Nov. 24.

Spokeswoman Catherine Fraser repeated the church's contention that the road should be closed because it is unsafe, the same argument made in earlier discussions of the potential action.

In the news release, Fraser quoted Stone as saying he is willing to consider alternatives to Gilman Springs Road, but only if they result in improvements and involve no public money.

Lauritzen said "there is no thought" of closing the road in the absence of a safer route capable of carrying more traffic.

"Those who propose closure would have to have those answers," he said.

Though she could not be reached by phone to discuss the closure concept, Fraser said in an e-mail that the church envisions using others' money for road improvements.

"First because the studies we are funding have never been done no one really knows what are appropriate improvements and their costs," she said in the e-mail. "Golden Era is committed to long-term regional traffic solutions and this effort will put a plan into place to identify those needs and costs so that all future developments pay their fair share."

The church already has intruded into the road right-of-way with a video camera that records traffic headed southbound through the Scientology complex.

The camera is adjacent to a traffic sign on the north side of the road.

It is impossible to know when the camera operates, but at night a light is pointed at southbound drivers.

Another camera has been installed on the south end of the complex, which also has a light pointed at drivers at night.

The San Jacinto City Council went on record at a recent meeting as opposing the closure of the road under any circumstances.

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